My friend Michelle over at the Hailey Herald just published a lovely post highlighting the beauty of a number of kids with Ds. It definitely displays a lot of smile-inducing cuteness. And it got me thinking...
One of the initial worries that I've heard a ton of new parents admit is that their child won't be beautiful. I know that it is one of the more superficial worries to have, but it's there nonetheless.
I have to admit that I had the same thought when Cora was born. I remember when she was still in the hospital and I was sitting there with my mom, I asked out loud if she thought Cora would look like she had Down syndrome when she was older. I still hadn't really accepted the idea of my daughter having Ds, and I just couldn't picture how this tiny little adorable baby (who actually DID look like she had Ds and I knew that even then) would still be beautiful as she got older if the features of Down syndrome were apparent. When my mom answered that yes, she most likely WILL look like she has Down syndrome, I felt disappointed and discouraged.
A couple weeks later my sister Mira was visiting. There is something about Mira and my mom, something that just allows me to bare my soul, even when my soul isn't very nice or very pretty. So I made a confession to Mira that I hadn't told anyone else. I told her that I liked it when I looked at Cora or saw a photo of Cora and didn't automatically see Down syndrome. I told her that often when I looked at Cora and recognized Ds, I didn't like it; that it made me uncomfortable and worried.
Mira, ever honest, and usually with a refreshing perspective that doesn't always conform to the norm but that always speaks to the real heart of things, gave a little smile and said,
"Really? I kind of love it when I can see it in her. I think it is part of her beauty."
And you know what? That moment started a shift in me. All of a sudden I could see what Mira meant, and I could see that it was true. That those angles that showed Cora's slanted eyes and the flat bridge of her nose, and even that mysterious indefinable quality that can't really be described by specific features but that just IS; seeing those qualities suddenly became less worrisome. I started to see the beauty in them too. And I started to be more comfortable with them.
Time has certainly continued to change how I see Cora. While I used to sometimes worry about whether people out and about in the world could "tell," now I just assume that everyone can tell. And I love it. I am proud of it. Heck, I admit it: I am a bit vain about the fact that my daughter is pretty dang gorgeous. I am sure that if she weren't objectively pretty I would be fine with that, and I'd probably still find her beautiful because I know and love her. And love sure makes someone attractive. But Cora is seriously beautiful. And Down syndrome is a part of her beauty. I'm so glad that I had someone so insightful to point that truth out to me early on. I'm glad that I learned to start to recognize that my daughter is beautiful and amazing AND she has Down syndrome.